Direct transformation of equilateral hexagonal Frank vacancy loops to stacking fault tetrahedra under thermal fluctuation

DH Xu and ZM Wang and TY Chang and JS Saini and WY Chen and MM Li and YY Zhu, JOURNAL OF PHYSICS-CONDENSED MATTER, 34, 385702 (2022).

DOI: 10.1088/1361-648X/ac7fd5

Stacking fault tetrahedra (SFTs) are highly interesting three- dimensional vacancy defects in quenched, plastically deformed or irradiated face-centered-cubic metals and have a significant impact on the properties and subsequent microstructural evolution of the materials. Their formation mechanism and stability relative to two- dimensional vacancy loops are still debated. Equilateral hexagonal Frank vacancy loops (faulted, sessile) observed in microscopy have been considered unable to directly transform to SFTs due to separation of Shockley partial dislocations as well as embryonic stacking faults. Here using sufficiently long (up to tens of nanoseconds) molecular dynamic simulations, we demonstrate that such a transformation can in fact take place spontaneously at elevated temperatures under thermal fluctuation, reducing potential energy of defected atoms by <0.05 eV/atom. The transformation becomes easier with increasing temperature or decreasing loop size.

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